Paul, in his first recorded sermon, argues for the sovereignty of God. Speaking in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, the apostle preaches that God "gave [our fathers] judges for about four hundred and fifty years" (Acts 13:20). God did so out of concern for His people: "When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them" (Judges 2:18). But, "when the judge was dead, . . . they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers" (verse 19). The fault was the peoples': They would not commit to serve God.
Today, God has also placed much of the control of government in the hands of judges. This is true not only in America—note the Massachusetts Supreme Court's recent decree regarding "gay marriage"—but throughout the Western world. As we could expect, not everyone ascribes the rise of "judicial imperialism" to God's power, least of all former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. In Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges, Bork writes scathingly of "judicial imperialism" as "the political revolution in Western nations [which] is the gradual but unceasing replacement of government by elected officials with government by appointed judges." He is unable to see the rise of the judiciary as part of God's sovereign work; rather, he is limited to seeing it as a sinister threat to liberal democracy.
It is at least as important to see God's hand in the rise of "judicial imperialism" as it is to be aware of it. Yes, judges are ruling the West, not the citizenry through its elected parliaments and congresses, prime ministers and presidents. Almost everywhere, democracy has taken a back seat to "ascendant and aggressive" liberal activism on the part of the judiciaries. It seems to be part of a Western zeitgeist. And, yes, it is God's doing.
Judicial activism results from the enlistment of judges on one side of the culture war in every Western nation. . . . [T]he culture war is an obtrusive fact. It is a struggle between the cultural or liberal left and the great mass of citizens who, left to their own devices, tend to be traditionalists. The courts are enacting the agenda of the cultural left.
Traditionalists indeed! The romantic myth that "the great mass of citizens" prefers tradition eludes confirmation in the real world. God says the Israelites of old habitually "reverted, and behaved more corruptly than their fathers." They were carnal and not a whit different from the citizens of today's West. Driven by human nature, they too "revert" to a state of greater corruption than that of their forefathers. Their recent reveling in the salacious antics of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, paying no regard to Victorian modesty, is a fine case in point.
Bork displays his refusal to give God the credit for the growth of "judicial imperialism" when he claims that "judges have wrought . . . a coup d'état—slow-moving and genteel, but a coup d'état nonetheless." No, judges have not seized power, as "coup d'état" implies—God gave it to them. He "rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17).
It is certainly no accident that the nation that has the strongest judiciary is the land of Othniel, Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel, the last judge. The Supreme Court of the State of Israel is the world's most powerful court. Bork writes:
Imagine, if you can, a supreme court that has gained the power to choose its own members, wrested control of the attorney general from the executive branch, set aside legislation and executive action when there were disagreements about policy, altered the meaning of enacted law, forbidden government action at certain times, ordered government action at other times, and claimed and exercised the authority to override national defense measures. . . . Israel's Supreme Court has done them all.
Of course, Bork, blind to God's hand in all this, concludes that "Israel has set a standard for judicial imperialism that can probably never be surpassed, and, one devoutly hopes, will never be equaled elsewhere." He does not understand that Israel's experience will be relived wherever and whenever God wills.
However unpleasant the "tyranny" of the judiciary may be to Constitutionalists and lovers of liberal democracy, it remains important for us to recognize the hand of God in the swelling power of the courts. God, whose hand has not been shortened by the sway of the Supreme Court, continues to labor for the ultimate good of believing Israel, His own special people.
- Charles Whitaker
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